"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Criminals on the Courts

In today's America, the real currency is celebrity.

George Neumayr notes, in today's American Spectator, that a surprisingly large percentage of NBA players have rap sheets; in a recent season, "40% of them had been arrested for crimes ranging from rape to armed robbery to domestic violence." Newmayr quotes an author who observed, "For many players, encounters with law-enforcement officials represent the rare instance of someone telling them no."

That is exactly the case, and it is the source of the rising thuggishness in that league. Moreover, it is true for countless other individuals who never make it to the pro leagues but are cosseted, indulged, babied, given every break, and almost never held accountable for their actions, simply because some school hopes to bask in the reflected glory of their athletic achievements. They are consequently thrust into the world with entirely unrealistic expectations of what consequences their actions should be expected to bring.

Athletic achievements are quite real and perfectly laudable, of course, but the idea that one's positive accomplishments should earn one a "get out of jail free" card is highly damaging both to the individuals thus indulged and to those with whom they come in contact. The same sort of immunity is routinely granted to entertainment figures and other celebrities. Celebrity is in some ways the very best form of currency: it brings money, social status, allure, a certain amount of immunity from the law, and other such magical powers.

On the social level, however, the admiration of celebrity for its own sake brings disaster. To create a class of people to whom the ordinary laws do not apply is to create an aristocracy, and to concoct one that is not taught a strong sense of responsibility toward those less fortunate than themselves—in fact, one that feels something indistinguishable from contempt for the rest of society—invariably breeds public resentment and, eventually, a thirst for revenge, a desire to take those people down a notch. That is certainly at least part of what was going on last Friday night in the aptly named Palace at Auburn Hills.

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